Report: Multiple crashes made up deadly pileup on I-57 in Mississippi Co.; victims identified

Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 5:03 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2022 at 12:31 PM CDT
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MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, Mo. (KFVS) - The Missouri State Highway Patrol released preliminary details into last week’s massive, deadly pileup on Interstate 57 in Mississippi County.

Three online reports show there were three crash scenes involving a total of 33 vehicles near Charleston at 8 a.m. on Thursday, March 17.

Most of the vehicles involved in the multi-vehicle crashes were semi-trucks, including ones with tractor-trailers.

The report also shows five people were killed and 15 others were injured.

According to the first MSHP preliminary report, a semi tractor-trailer driver from Memphis was rear-ended by a semi tractor-trailer driver from Laredo, Texas, which caused a chain reaction crash of 15 other vehicles.

This was at 8 a.m. in the southbound lanes of I-57 at the 13.4 mile marker.

The semi driver from Laredo, 39-year-old Jose M. Lopez, and a semi driver from White, Arkansas, 35-year-old Blake C. Lercher, were both seriously injured in the crash.

Lercher was flown to a St. Louis hospital for treatment and an ambulance transported Lopez to a Cape Girardeau hospital.

Two Heartland drivers, Aeian A. Baird, of Carterville, and Orlando T. Matthews, of Cairo, were involved in the chain reaction. Both were transported by ambulance to a hospital in Sikeston for treatment of minor injuries.

In all, MSHP said this first multi-vehicle crash involved 11 semis, one box truck, two pickup trucks, two SUVs and one car.

In the northbound lanes of I-57, also at mile marker 13.4, three vehicles were involved in a crash.

According to MSHP, a Houston, Texas man driving a GMC Sierra hit the trailer of a Freightliner semi, which was disabled from a previous crash, and a Kenworth semi hit the rear of the pickup truck.

The driver of the pickup, 45-year-old Jose A. Hernandez, was killed in the crash. His passenger was transported by a member of the New Madrid County Sheriff’s Office to a Sikeston hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

The driver of the Freightliner semi, 50-year-old Terry G. Wheetley, of Poplar Bluff, was seriously injured. He was flown to a St. Louis hospital.

A member of the New Madrid County Sheriff’s Office transported the driver of the Kenworth semi, 41-year-old Ronale F. Reider, of Lake Charles, Louisiana, to a Sikeston hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

The last report from MSHP shows 13 vehicles were involved in a chain-reaction crash in the southbound lanes of I-57 at the 13.6 mile marker.

Five vehicles were semis, two involved pickup trucks, one car and five other unknown vehicle models.

Four people, including a Heartland man, were killed in the crash and eight others were injured.

According to MSHP, a Plano, Texas man driving a Volvo rear-ended another Texas man driving a Volvo, which caused a chain-reaction of crashes.

Three drivers, 75-year-old William E. Ryan, of Pevely, 30-year-old Joshua R. Wiggens of North Carolina and 51-year-old Jesse Jimenez of Texas, died at the scene.

Raina S. Jamerson, 22 of Kenosha, Wisconsin and a passenger in a car, died from her injuries at a Kentucky hospital. The driver of the car, Timonika T. Coburn, and a second passenger, Jamille P. Newson, were seriously injured in the crash. Both women were rushed by ambulance to a Cape Girardeau hospital for treatment.

Four people traveling in a Ford F150, including the 57-year-old driver from Newton, Ill., were rushed to a Cape Girardeau hospital with serious injuries.

Two other drivers, a 50-year-old Indiana woman and a 46-year-old Little Rock, Ark. man, were treated for minor injuries at a Sikeston hospital.

According to Zach Bolden, director of the Mississippi County EMS, it was foggy when they responded to the crashes on I-57.

Bolden also said one or two emergency responders were also taken to area hospitals.

Charleston Department of Public Safety Director Robert Hearnes estimated between 30-50 vehicles were involved in the crash.

Some of the vehicles also caught on fire.

Large, black plumes of smoke could be seen for miles.

The Missouri Department of Transportation closed I-57 in Mississippi County for at least 20 hours to allow crews to investigate and remove the wrecked vehicles and debris from the area.

Many first responders said this was the worst crash scene they have ever seen.

Law enforcement, ambulance crews, tow truck drivers and other emergency response personnel from all over the Heartland, including southern Illinois and western Kentucky provided help with the massive crashes.

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